WSOP MAIN EVENT: Field shrinks as players guaranteed six-figure payday

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

LAS VEGAS -- Players left at the World Series of Poker main event were each guaranteed a six-figure payday for running deep in the game's richest tournament after six early eliminations late Friday at the Rio All Suites Hotel.

The ultimate goal, however? Being one of the final nine players, dubbed the last three years by WSOP officials as "The November Nine."

French player Gabriel Nassif busted in 73rd place from the no-limit Texas Hold 'em tournament during the first two hours of play, earning $94,942 and bumping the remaining entrants to at least $114,205.

Top prize in the tournament is $8.94 million, with a final table to be determined during a session today. At press time Friday, the field was down to 42 players -- with a goal to reach 27 by night's end -- as American Coung Nguyen of Santa Ana, Calif., the overall chip leader with a chip stack of $19.5 million.

But the day was not as sweet for everyone.

Jean-Robert Bellande, a poker professional and former "Survivor" contestant who has cashed 12 times at the series, was eliminated in 78th after entering the day with a short chip stack.

Bellande told his tablemates he wanted to gamble, and a few hands later moved all-in with a queen-10. He was eliminated by an opponent holding ace-queen.

"Each level, each day you have different goals according to the chip stack and people at your table," Bellande said. "For me, it was a crazy roller coaster because there were several times where I started to chip up and then I just took brutal hits."

Bellande's run began to sour Thursday when he lost a lot of chips with pocket aces against pocket kings when a king hit on the river.

Bellande was still sour about the hand when Friday's play began.

"For a guy like me who knows how to play the big stack and how to really push people around, that's a big difference in the tournament," he said. "You could have easily seen me as one of the leaders coming into (Friday) if that hand held up.

"It's frustrating, but bottom line is we're poker players and we know that these things happen so we have to be able to take the hits and move on and play our best."

Less than half the 78 players who started the day were eliminated the dinner break. The only real big names left are former bracelet winners and established pros Scott Clements and Adam Levy, as well as Miami pro Michael Mizrachi, who finally captures his first bracelet this year and is having an amazing series.

Known in poker circles as the "Grinder," Mizrachi, who began the day second in chips, dropped more than half his stack during the first two hours of play because of several hands, including a showdown where his two pair was worse than an opponent's.

Mizrachi, seeking his second gold bracelet this series and a possible World Series of Poker Player of the Year nod, was about average in chips after the first two hours.

His stack fell below 2 million chips in the third and fourth hours, but he built back up to nearly 3.7 million at the dinner break.

"Don't sleep on the Grinder," Bellande said. "Grinder, he knows how to play. He knows how to play with mediocre players and he knows how to play with great players and I would not be surprised if he makes the November Nine and eventually takes it down."